Queensland’s Outer Barcoo was a near-Godless place according to Banjo Paterson, and west of the great inland river had a name for being uncivilised. But that was long ago; if you head out to the Barcoo these days to a spot about 220km south of Longreach, you’ll find all the civilisation you need in the bar of the Yaraka Hotel, run by publicans Chris and Gerry Gimblett.
They haven’t been there long. Chris, a former real estate developer and wholesale nursery owner, and Gerry, a retired teacher, bought the hotel early in 2014. The town had a population of 12, the school had no students and the pub needed some work. They set to it, determined not to let the tiny Outback town vanish off the map.
The population is now 22 and the pub has been spruced up and restored as an attractive social focus which offers tourists a genuine bush welcome, meals and accommodation. The Gimbletts, helped by their son Nick, are perfect hosts.
Chris was born in Somerset, the nephew of celebrated English cricketer Harold Gimblett, who batted for Somerset before and after WW11. Chris, who has a rural background, went into real estate and later started a wholesale nursery in Calamvale, Brisbane.
Gerry, who was born in Holland and arrived in Australia aged 5, became a film director and later a teacher, and after meeting and marrying, the couple moved to Yaraka in 1986, for a two-year stint that lasted eight. They then moved via Surat to Beaudesert, where Gerry taught at the state school for 14 years. The couple jumped at an offer to buy the Yaraka Hotel.
“I’d always wanted to end up living in the Outback, and this place (Yaraka) really does draw people back to it,” Chris says. “When we returned last year we were looking for a quiet retirement, but it’s been chaotic ever since.”
Doing up the pub, creating new menus and beautifully landscaping the surrounds has occupied much of the family’s time in the past year, and they aren’t about to rest on their laurels. They say they will keep injecting what energy they can into the pub and the town and are looking for ways to develop its tourism potential. A new website and a hoped for RV-friendly status could be followed by organised scenic tours, opal fossicking and more.
“There is a lot of potential here,” Chris says. “There is no other place I’d rather be.”
You can watch the inspirational Australian Story ‘Mrs Gimblett’s Silver Linings’ here.
Check out the great new Yaraka website here!